Culinary School Confidential: Level 2, Week 4 – Pasta Day

Rolling Gnocchi

The last week of level 2 was a very up and down week, not the least because Hurricane Irene blew through here the weekend preceding it. Manhattan wasn’t too badly hit, but we did loose a day of classes, so we kind of started the week scrambling.  I was also starting to stress about the upcoming practical and insomnia was starting to hit again– but more on that later. The lessons for the week were also a bit of a hodgepodge of this and that – no unifying theme. 

Pasta day, was a pretty up and down day all on it’s own.  I was looking forward to pasta making, and since I’d made it a couple of times before at home on my own and with friends, I thought it was going to be a fairly smooth day. Additionally, my partner for the day was friend of mine who tends to be quite technically proficient. It started out well enough.  We made some beautiful and delicious potato gnocchi in the morning without a hitch.

Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sage Sauce with Gorgonzola and pine nuts
Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sage Sauce with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts

Somewhere during the course of the day, however, things started to go a little off. At one point, as I tried to speed through making dough, I mixed up my recipe cards and made dough the wrong kind of pasta for the dish we were making.   This set us back a little bit, so then we had to scramble to catch up. I felt terrible.

Later on, we were all making ravioli, but there were only a limited number of ravioli molds (by the way, these contraptions are pretty nifty) and as we waited our pasta dried out, so we had to roll out some more. Finally, we got a mold and stuffed the ravioli, but something went a bit wrong – we must have not put in enough filling-- and the little guys came out kind of sad and limp.  Moreover, through the course of the afternoon, my buddy and I seemed to be having communication problems.  Suddenly it seemed as if we were speaking two different languages and neither of us was understanding what the other was saying.  By the end of the day, we felt a bit harried.

Ravioli in Tomato Sauce
Slightly Flaccid Ravioli

We were able to laugh about it all together later though. Plus, I suppose it’s not too bad a day when you get to take home an entire delicious lasagna and batch of gnocchi.

Lasagna really does make one feel better about life, so here is the recipe from class for when you need cheering up.  It is very similar to the one I started making a couple of years ago out of the The Silver Spoon, however with fresh pasta dough. (See this link to make lasagna with dried pasta.) There is spinach in this pasta dough, so the finished dish kind of looks like an Italian flag.

Rolling Lasagna Sheets

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the Mirepoix:
250g (9oz) red onion, chopped
200g (7oz) celery, chopped
60g (2oz) carrot, chopped
75g (2 ½ oz) pancetta, chopped
60g (2 oz) extra virgin olive oil
½ t red pepper flakes

For the Pasta Dough:
75g (2 ½ oz) cooked spinach, squeezed dry
225g (8oz) AP flour, as needed
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
10g (1/3 oz) extra virgin olive oil
Semolina, for rolling

For the Bechamel Sauce
60g (2oz) butter
60g (2oz) AP flour
1 kg (33 oz) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Nutmeg, freshly ground
10 g (1/3 oz) butter
100g (3 ½ oz) grated Parmesan 30 g (1 oz) butter

Meat Sauce (recipe below)

For the Mirepoix and the Ragu:
Make the mirepoix (soffritto) and use the meat sauce from the previous lesson.

For the Pasta Dough and the Bechamel Sauce
1.    Mix the pasta dough. Roll it into thin sheets, then cut into rectangles 8 cm x 13 cm (3” x 5”) rectangles.  Place the pasta in a single layer on parchment-lined trays sprinkled with semolina.
2.    Dust the pasta rectangles with semolina.  Place a sheet of parchment on top, sprinkle with semolina, and continue layering pasta in the manner, using a sheet of parchment between each layer.  Cover with plastic wrap.
3.    Make the béchamel and dot the surface of the sauce with butter (tamponner) to prevent a skin from forming.
4.    Cook the pasta rectangles in boiling salted water to al dente.  Transfer to ice water to chill.  Drain and pat dry on paper towels.

For the Lasagna:
1.    Preheat an oven to 375F
2.    Butter a lasagna pan or rectangular casserole dish.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of béchamel.
3.    Cover with a single layer of pasta, cutting the rectangles to fit exactly with just a little overlap at   the seams.
4.    Spread with a thin layer of meat sauce, then top with a thick layer of béchamel.  Sprinkle with cheese.
5.    Cover with a second layer of pasta.  Continue this layering process, beginning with the pasta and ending with the cheese, to make 3 more layers.  Dot with butter.
6.    Bake at 375F until the top is golden.  Let cool before cutting.

Meat Sauce
Yield: 2 Kg (2 qt)

250 g (9 oz) red onion, chopped
200 g (7 oz) celery, chopped
60 g (2 oz) carrot, chopped
75 g (2 ½ oz) pancetta, chopped
60 g (2 oz) Extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
340 g (12 oz) ground pork
340 g (12 oz) ground beef
75 g (2 ½ oz) Prosciutto, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
250 g (9 oz) red wine
800 g (28 oz) whole, canned tomatoes, pureed through food mill
250 g (9 oz) water

1.    Process the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large pot with the oil, set over heat, and cook, adding the pepper flakes and spices after a few mins. Cook until the water has evaporated and the flavor of the vegetables has deepened, about 10 mins.
2.    Add the ground meats and prosciutto and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the meat has entirely broken down into bits and is cooked through, about 15 more mins. Seasoned about halfway through the cooking.
3.    Degrease the pan, add the wine, reduce until evaporated.
4.    Add the tomato and simmer slowly until the liquid has almost evaporated and the mixture is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan about 20 mins.
5.    Add half of the water and cook for 10 mins. Add the remaining water, season with salt, cover and cook gently for 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning and cook until the ingredients are completely broken down, the gelatin from the meat has bound the sauce slightly, and the flavor is rich and melded, about 1 more hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning.



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    Personal Chef Charlotte

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    Personal Chef